Rep. Delay Calls Faith-based Initiative An Opportunity To 'rebuke Church-state Separation'

House Leader's Comments To TV Preacher's Congressional Luncheon Underscore Initiative's Real Intent, AU Charges

A key component of President George W. Bush's "faith-based initiative" cleared the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday, and the plan is now headed for a vote in the full House, despite its serious church-state flaws.

On a party-line vote of 23-16, the committee approved changes to the tax code, allegedly with the aim of spurring more charitable giving. These aspects of the bill have been overshadowed by the more controversial provision of the initiative that gives direct government funding to religious groups to provide social services, a concept known as "charitable choice."

The Community Solutions Act (H.R. 7) now is ready for a floor vote on the House floor, perhaps as early as next week. Americans United Executive Director the Rev. Barry W. Lynn urged the full House to reject the bill.

"This bill is misnamed," Lynn said. "It purports to offer communities solutions to their problems, but in reality it is little more than a giant battering ram aimed at the wall of separation between church and state."

Lynn noted that the bill directs tax aid to churches and other sectarian organizations with no meaningful oversight. He said it allows religious discrimination with public funds, subjects needy people to religious pressures and entangles government with religion.

Lynn added that the tax breaks approved yesterday are insignificant. While ostensibly designed to spur charitable giving among taxpayers who do not itemize deductions, the bill, according to media reports, would offer most of these taxpayers a break amounting to $3.75 per year -- about one cent a day.

The Americans United leader said this demonstrates that approving direct federal aid to religion has been the primary objective of the Bush plan all along.

"This absurd 'benefit' proves that all of this talk about tax breaks and sparking charitable giving is window dressing," said Lynn. "The real goal of the Bush 'faith-based initiative' is to usher in a new era of government-supported religion. It's a disastrous idea and one that the American people do not want. I am counting on the House to put a stop to this reckless proposal by voting it down when it comes to floor."

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.